Re: Modern Job Hunting

by The Escaped Inmate

. . . employment and unemployment are the two poles of an existence with no escape.

—Richard Wright

Looking for a job is a rotten experience.  That’s no accident.  After all, most jobs aren’t that great, so employers have to do something to make prospective employees desperate enough to take the crummy jobs.  Hence the modern job hunt.

First you reduce your qualifications to one piece of paper, preferably filled with the latest buzzwords.  There are as many versions of the ideal resume as there are resumes.  Of course the people who have the responsibility of actually screening the resumes don’t let the general public know what they’re looking for at any given time, so the resume turns out to be a rather random means of winnowing out the applicant pool.  For all you know, it could be the difference between your taste in typefaces and that of someone in the human resources department that disqualifies you from what would otherwise be a good job.  It’s easy to get upset about the resume routine, but it’s pointless.

Take a moment to look at it from the other side.  Imagine that your job is looking at resumes all day.  You probably don’t know a whole lot about the particular jobs that are available, other than what little you’ve been told.  The more technical the position, the more likely it is that the resumes are being sorted by someone with little or no first hand knowledge of what it takes to do the job.  After all that person’s job is to sort resumes.

Those whose resumes make the cut, along with those who have some kind of in with the potential employer, get to an interview.  What a joy that is!  It’s basically a first date without any of the fun parts – no entertainment, no food, no drinks (except, maybe, weak coffee) and no kissing.  The same mindless questions and self-serving answers over and over, the same awkwardness and lots and lots of pressure to close the deal.  I’m sure that prostitutes and other unscrupulous sales folks would do well in job interviews, since so much of their work is so similar to being an interviewee.  I’m neither of those, so for me interviews are an ordeal.  Sometimes applicants have to go through a series of interviews with one prospective employer.  For instance my wife went through about a day and a half of interviewing with five separate people to get her current job – doing the same thing she’s been doing for several years!

Most people don’t like rejection so after scads of resumes draw no response and a series of interviews lead to nothing, people start to feel the requisite desperation.  Standard dogma says that on average no more than one in ten resumes will lead to an interview and on average one in ten interviews will lead to a job.  That’s an average failure rate of 99% for resumes and 90% for interviews.  Unfortunately there are folks at the end of the curve for whom the odds are significantly worse than that.

One more thought about why job hunting is such an unpleasant ordeal – it keeps existing employees put.  Who hasn’t put up with crap at work just because finding another job is such a pain?  If you are working and you’re looking for another job, you may be putting your current job in jeopardy.  At the very least you’re probably getting your supervisor hacked off, which can be a less-than-rewarding experience.

Along the same lines, I think one reason so many workplaces have gone to casual attire is that it further inconveniences those employees who are looking for a different job.  After all, you’ve got to dress up for job interviews.  If you show up in a suit at a casual workplace, you’re conspicuous.  Stopping between work and the interview (and again on the way back) to change clothes is a time consuming hassle.  Yes, I realize my theory seems slightly cynical.  I also know that when I mentioned it to management at a previous corporate employer shortly after it had gone casual, the color suddenly left their faces.


works cited:

  • Richard Wright as quoted in Leisure, the Basis of Culture  by Josef Pieper, translated by Gerald Malsbary, St. Augustine’s Press, South Bend Indiana, 1998, pg. 36.

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